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 Maine BPC – Spring 2002 Minimize


GMO application in the works; forum planned
Staff making progress in pesticides sales data analysis
Kennebunk lawncare firm accepts fine for notification violation


GMO application in the works; forum planned

In November 2001, the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) staff received an application for registration of genetically modified sweet corn manufactured by DowAgrisciences. Because the sweet corn incorporates the Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, it is classified as a pesticide and must be approved by the BPC, after a finding that "a need for the pesticide exists," and that "when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice, it will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment." (Other genetically engineered plant products, such as Roundup Ready field corn, which is herbicide resistant, are not classified as pesticides – although they may promote pesticide use – and hence are not regulated by the BPC and are sold without any registration required in Maine).

This is the first application for registration of a genetically engineered product received by the Board since 1997 and 1998, when three applications for genetically engineered field corn were withdrawn following a failure of the applicants, DEKALB and Monsanto, to provide data regarding need, environmental risk and other issues requested by the Board. The only genetically engineered product ever registered by the Board was the NewLeaf potato, which, unlike corn products, did not present a risk of cross-contamination, and which was withdrawn from the market nationally in 2001.

BPC toxicologist Lebelle Hicks indicated that the DowAgrisciences application is not technically pending before the BPC, as it was returned to the company in November with a form letter the Board developed for GMO products, requesting data regarding toxicology, nutritional analysis, and impact on development of resistance to the BT toxin. (Bt is a natural pesticide widely used as a spray for decades by conventional as well as organic growers, and a major concern regarding the development of genetically engineered crops which incorporate the toxin is the crops' tendency to hasten the development of toxin-resistant pests, requiring resort to other, more toxic chemical control measures). No response to the data request had been received as of the BPC's January 4, 2002 meeting.

In a related development, at the January 4, 2002 meeting, in response to an inquiry from Sharon Tisher, BPC Executive Director Bob Batteese indicated that Lockland Titus, a representative of Agway in Maine, had asked Batteese if the Board would be interested in holding an educational forum on genetically engineered organisms. Titus indicated that several new genetically engineered vegetable varieties were likely to be ready for registration for the 2003 growing season, and since there had been some turnover in membership on the Board since the 1997 and 98 applications, perhaps the Board could benefit from an informational session about GMO's.

The Board discussed the request at its November 30, 2001 meeting, and decided that it might be more appropriate for the Department of Agriculture to host such a forum, rather than the BPC. The Department agreed to organize a session, and Bob Batteese and Lee Humphreys, a public representative on the Board and an organic grower, agreed to represent the BPC on the planning committee for the forum, which would be held in the spring, and would seek to represent the different perspectives on the subject.

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Staff making progress in pesticides sales data analysis

Batteese appeared more hopeful at the January 4, 2001 meeting than at previous sessions about the possibility of developing a meaningful report on annual sales of pesticides in the state. Such a report, mandated by the 1997 "Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides," and once again mandated in 2001 by John Nutting's L.D. 1540, "An Act to Ensure that the State Board of Pesticides Control has Sufficient Resources to Provide Accurate Information About the Use of Pesticides in the State," has thus far defied the technical capabilities of the BPC staff. (See MOF&G, Aug/Oct 2001) The Board for a while entertained the possibility of contracting out for the data analysis, but Batteese indicated that BPC staffer Julie Chizmas was at work on analyzing reports, had been in communication with several other states, and was making progress in developing conversion information for generating figures for total quantities of active ingredients sold. "It will be done when it's done," Batteese indicated, "hopefully by [the deadline of] April 1."

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Kennebunk lawncare firm accepts fine for notification violation

BPC regs provide that a homeowner can request advanced notification of pesticide applications on properties within 500 ft. of their property. During the summer of 2000, Joan and Neal Bragdon of Scarborough requested that Keystone Horticulturalists, of Kennebunk, give them 24 hour advance notification of applications to their neighbors' lawn. According to BPC investigative reports, on September 27,2000 Thomas Sulkey of Keystone arrived to make a pesticide application, and was reminded by Mrs. Bragdon that they had not been notified of the application. "However, Mr. Sulkey, having traveled some distance and mistakenly thinking the notice was voluntary, elected to make the application anyway." At its January 4, 2002 meeting, the BPC accepted a Consent Agreement whereby Keystone agreed to pay a $350.00 fine, but did not admit that it had committed a violation of BPC regulations.

– Reported by Sharon Tisher

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